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“WE JUST WEREN’T QUICK ENOUGH” – FIRST ROUND LOSS DERAILS JOHNSON’S AMERICAN RED CROSS BENEFIT OUTING
COMMERCE, GA 5/15/11 Pro Stock Motorcycle drag racing veteran Steve Johnson of Irondale, Ala. had high hopes for the National Hot Rod Association’s Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway this weekend. “This was a really important race for us,” he said after a disappointing first round loss. “It was not only important for our position in the Full Throttle points standings, but even more so because we were representing the American Red Cross in their fund raising efforts to help victims of the recent tornados in the Deep South. Many of our friends and neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia have lost their homes and virtually everything they had. I hope our efforts kept the publicity rolling for this very important fund-raising effort.”
Johnson is drag racing’s most experienced competitor on two wheels, today making his 301st NHRA national event start. “I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit to being proud of that record,” Johnson said, “but when you get right down to it, we lost in the first round today, and that hurts. Obviously, we’d hoped to do better.”
Johnson’s American Red Cross-themed Suzuki struggled in qualifying, with crew chief Tim Kulungian making radical changes to the tune-up in an effort to make the motorcycle quicker. “We ran a pretty decent 7.091 second elapsed time on Friday afternoon,” Kulungian said, “but we knew we could run harder. The ironic part of it is that we did run quicker, but even though the elapsed times and speeds looked okay, we needed more.”
Johnson faced Hector Arana, Jr. in the first round, and after having capped off qualifying with a best effort of 6.983 seconds, the last thing he and the team expected was to have their Suzuki slow to a seven second flat elapsed time on that all-important run. Arana won with a superior 6.973 second run. “The most frustrating aspect of it,” Johnson said, “was that we didn’t do anything radical for that first round. We were fairly conservative, and maybe we should have gone the other way, and been a lot more aggressive.
“Yeah, I know. It’s like being a Monday Morning Quarterback, when you can see the whole field, including the guy who was wide open for a touchdown, that you missed when it really counted. We can’t go back, we can only go forward, and do our best in our next outing in New Jersey on the first weekend of June.”
In addition to Johnson’s Suzuki carrying the American Red Cross colors into the battle, he also participated in a Saturday afternoon autograph session on behalf of the organization, and also helped collect additional donations during Sunday morning’s Track Walk that included race fans and other drivers.
“We managed to collect some significant donations on behalf of the tornado victims, but the need is still great” Johnson said. “When all is said and done, that was really more important than what we did on the track. Winning would have been great, but we’ll sleep well tonight, knowing that we’ve at least done a little something to help our friends and neighbors.”
Just because the Southern Nationals is over doesn’t mean that the need for tornado assistance has. Donations can be made to the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or online at http//eastgeorgia.redcross.org./ A $10 donation may also be made by texting the phrase, “REDCROSS” to 90999.
NEXT: NHRA Supernationals, Englishtown, NJ, June 2-5